"To make better decisions, we need to think more about thinking."
Think Watson’s RED model of critical thinking’
This is the ability to separate fact from opinion. It is deceptively easy to listen to a comment or presentation and assume the information presented is true even though no evidence was given to back it up. Noticing and questioning assumptions helps to reveal information gaps or unfounded logic. Taking it a step further, when we examine assumptions through the eyes of different people (e.g., the viewpoint of different stakeholders), the end result is a richer perspective on a topic.
The art of evaluating arguments entails analyzing information objectively and accurately, questioning the quality of supporting evidence, and understanding how emotion influences the situation. Common barriers include confirmation bias, or allowing emotions-yours or others-to get in the way of objective evaluation. People may quickly come to a conclusion simply to avoid conflict. Being able to remain objective and sort through the validity of different positions helps people draw more accurate conclusions.
People who possess this skill are able to bring diverse information together to arrive at conclusions that logically follow from the available evidence, and they do not inappropriately generalize beyond the evidence. Furthermore, they will change their position when the evidence warrants doing so. They are often characterized as having "good judgment" because they typically arrive at a quality decision.
5 characteristics of a critical thinker
A journalist taught me about critical thinking and writing/editing. It’s important to vet and uncover more than one side to a story. See if you or your business associates have one or more of these characteristics (adapted from the Wikipedia entry). Do you:
- raise important questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
- gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
- come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
- think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, your assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
- communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems; without being unduly influenced by others’ thinking on the topic.
These abilities are critical in business strategy — and in life. I particularly like the concept of suspending judgment.
How do you know?
These four words make a great jump-start to critical thinking. If it isn’t clear, ask, “How do you know?”